Journal of World Prehistory

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 1-55

The Prehistory of the Tibetan Plateau to the Seventh Century A.D.: Perspectives and Research from China and the West Since 1950

  • Mark AldenderferAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of California
  • , Zhang YinongAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Cornell University

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Until recently, there has been no sense of a Tibetan prehistory. Beginning in the 1970s, however, Chinese archaeologists began to systematically explore the plateau, and began to draw an outline of the deep Tibetan past. The pace of research accelerated rapidly in the 1990s, which brought this outline into sharper focus. This paper reviews what is known of Tibetan prehistory until the seventh century A.D., when the Tibetan empire was established. Topics covered in this paper include a consideration of the antiquity of a human presence upon the plateau, changing adaptive strategies following the end of the glacial epoch, the advent of the Neolithic, and the emergence of social and political complexity. Despite significant advances in our knowledge of the Tibetan past, much work remains to be done before models of process can be examined in any detail.

Tibetan plateau prehistory adaptation to high elevation China